My Thoughts · poetry · Ukrainian War

Two Bags: That’s All She Took!

Immigration: two bags

Two bags of belongings are all a 68-year-old Ukrainian woman refugee took with her. I can’t imagine compressing all my earthly possessions into two bags. She is 68; so am I! I sobbed when I heard her interviewed. I’ve looked for this story on different new sources, but because of the explosion of Ukrainian immigrant stories, I couldn’t find it.

I have mused over this story for a week and ached for this woman. In her translation, she said, “It’s not about things. I’m 68 years old and this is all I have.”

You know me! So, this compelled me to write a poem which is all conjecture:

Two Bags—How Can I Choose?

Woman - Two Bags

For months, I’ve worried

A war

            A rumor of a war,

                        Then it happened.

The bombing

            In the distant east




What do I do?

I have lived a simple life

            For 68 years

                        Near Kovel, in a small Ukrainian village,

                                    Near the Polish border.

I have no family left here,

            Am childless.

My husband died two years ago.

My neighbors have taken care of me, a widow—

            Loving people,

                        Who bought our farm.

Yesterday, they came by with

            A heartfelt, life-changing offer.

                        Join us.

                        Let’s leave

                                    To Lublin, Poland.

As they spoke, I wept.

            My sister lives in Lublin.



                                                Shelter from what’s coming!

            My neighbors have relatives

                        There too!

A 169 kilometers car trip,

            2 hours and 40 minutes to escape.

The plan seems extreme—

            Leave by 2:00 AM

                        In the dark


                                    Pushing the car down the lane

                                                Out of town

                                                            Not to wake anyone.  

We wonder about the possibility of

Russian sympathizers in the village,

            Caution for sure!

But I’m Ukrainian!

            Lived here my whole life.

Deep in my heart, I know I have to go,

As I look around our lovely home,

            Full of memories


                        My husband

                                    And our life together.

Two bags

            That’s all I can take.

My neighbors have a car

            With limited space.

First, I packed bag number one.

 I grab the essentials

  • Toothbrush & paste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush
  • Soap

Next, my clothes

  • Underwear
  • Bras
  • Socks—five changes of each
  • Pants
  • Sweaters
  • Extra shoes

I cram extras into my clothes bag

  • Those minor items I have to have

Second, I packed my bag number two,

  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Financial papers
  • Passport
  • Bible
  • A small lap afghan I knitted

Third, in the space left in my second bag

My heart things

                        Our framed wedding picture

                        Mom’s secret pen

                                    From World War II

                                                When she was displaced like me.

As I look at her pen,

            I sob uncontrollably.

Why again?

            Why this horror?

I’m a simple woman

            Hurt no one

            Lived a simple Christian life

            Close to the land

            Helped my husband daily

            Good life

As I look around my home,

            One last time

I want to capture it all

            In my mind

                        Bring it all with me.

Will I be back—ever?

            Can this little house stand the bombing?

                        My heart breaks open at that thought.

To be prepared,

            I dress

                        In layers to protect myself

                                    Against the cold—

                                                Normally doesn’t get much above freezing

                                                            During the day,

                                                Then night time dives to down to 20 degrees.

            I must dress warm

                        Because I have no idea

                                    What’s ahead.

                        So layers,

                                    As many as I can handle.

Watching the clock fully dressed,

            Solemnly, I eat a hearty meal at midnight.

                        When will I eat again?

                                    I sneak some snacks

                                                In both bags

                                                            Just in case.

At 1:00 AM precisely, the soft knock on the door

            Tells me it is time.

As I grab my two bags,

            I shift the weight

                        To disperse the weight of my bags over my achy shoulders.

After one last glance,

            I shut the door and lock it,

                        Placing the key inside my purse

                                    As always.

With a set jaw, I walk towards the car

            Overflowing with my neighbor

                        And his family.

Walking with my back to my home, I choke back a sob.

            Such loving people.

To silently leave the village,

            It takes all of us



                                               Bearing down on

                                                            The car.

Safely out of town,

            My neighbor starts the car.

                        We jump in

                                    And head west

                                                Towards Lublin—


                                                            And the unknown.

And me,

            Here I am with two bags!

Two Bags—What Would I Choose?

As I write this, I looked around my house at 68 years old. How would I choose? I’ve pondered this blog post all week and thought about what I would take if I had the two bag limit. Obviously, Lin would be with me!

This is what I decided on:

  • Jesse
    • Food
    • Insulin
  • Bible
  • Laptop
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Cables for technology
  • Mom’s genealogy notebook
  • Cash
  • Credit Cards
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hair brush & comb
  • Clothes
    • Underwear
    • Bras
    • Socks
    • Extra pair of shoes
    • Changes of clothes
  • Priceless jewelry

How would I carry Jesse? I’m seeing my two bags have just grown.

As I scanned even just one room, what else? I’d sift through my belongings and despair like my Ukrainian counterpart over what I had to leave. What about Dad’s saddle and chaps? All of my beautiful square dance outfits?

How heart-wrenching! Millions of immigrants have left Ukraine, flooding Poland especially and all the other border countries. Displaced describes what has happened to them—forced to leave their homes!


I get it that this is happening thousands of miles away from me, but when I heard that 68-year-old woman interviewed, I sobbed! Two bags—how do you fit 68 years of life in two bags?

What would you take if you faced the situation of having to compress your worldly good to two bags?

Pray for Ukraine - two bags

~NEW PODCAST to be released Thursday, March 17, 2022, discussing my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? : Live on Purpose Podcast at

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: or at Amazon.

~Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”:

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Baby boomer · My Thoughts

War is Here! So, What Now?

Stop war in Ukraine

War is here. On Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded their neighbor to the east, Ukraine. I am sixty-eight years old—I was a child of the cold war and have witnessed several other warring events.

A Child of the Cold War

In 1962, as a nine-year-old child, I remember the tension the adults showed around The Cuban Missile Crisis. We were at my grandparents’ in Amarillo, Texas. I remember anxiety hung heavy over that entire visit. As a child, I registered the strong feelings, yet did not know the severity of the event.

My parents’ generation remembered the nuclear bombs in World War II, so they focused on keeping us safe from experiencing that horror. Being a child of the cold war, I remember drills at school to get to the bomb shelters, announcements on TV, and signage in many stores in Trinidad, Colorado, identifying where the bomb shelters were in their building. The threat of a nuclear attack from Russia lingered for years.

Vietnam War

Putin’s recent aggression brought me back to the Vietnam War era and my experience of watching it in our living room. I remember the death count mounting and the horror of jungle warfare nightly. It seemed to go on endlessly. The government drafted my brother at the end of the Vietnam War, but he didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Our family didn’t lose anyone in that war, but so many of my generation died!

Fast forward to my late twenties and early thirties after my first divorce—I often lamented I had lost my soul mate, killed in Vietnam. That idea haunted me during my drinking days. So, my heart has never embraced war, probably because of that experience.

Desert Storm

When Desert Storm hit in 1990, I remember seeing the newscasters with gas masks on, worrying about chemical warfare here in the United States. Being single, I went to bed many nights scared to death of the coming horror.

I taught at the middle school in Raton, New Mexico and we had just studied Dr. Martin Luther King during January, 1991. In studying King, we also looked at David Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience.”

We talked about his sit-ins all over the South and King’s use of civil disobedience, and my students had listened more than I realized.

Then they queried me about what we could do in line with “Civil Disobedience” about Desert Storm. I talked to our principal, and he okayed a schoolwide assembly, not protesting Desert Storm, but war. My class organized this event, and we had it in the school gym. Several people (students and adults) spoke. We had pictures around the gym of National Guard members who had been called up. One of them, a janitor of ours, who we all loved, spoke from the heart, leaving all of us in tears.

No more war

When the students entered the gym, we ushered them to sit in the stands. At the end of the program, we invited anyone who was against war to join us on the gym floor as a sit-in against war. Everyone joined us—students and staff. We played patriotic music and just sat there on the floor together. I will never forget that day and how proud I was of my classes for becoming activists about their beliefs.

Now once again, war is here. . .

So Now, What?

Because of repeated warnings, the world knew Putin’s intentions for weeks. On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, I traveled south from southeastern Colorado to my home in Tijeras, New Mexico, listening for my four-and-a-half-hour drive to the newscasters trying to figure out what was coming! When would Putin strike? Were the sanctions tough enough? That listening didn’t relieve my doubts, fears, and anxiety, but I wanted to stay informed.

Will history repeat itself in Europe? Mom and I visited Eastern Europe in 1999 after the Berlin wall came down. It was an emotional trip going east from Germany into Poland. From Poland, we traveled south to Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. We then headed back west to Austria and flew out of Germany.

Being from the United States, I was shocked how we arrived in a different country so quickly on that trip! We are so spread out here in the USA, but within a short distance, we traveled through a couple countries in eastern Europe. That makes this war so much more intense, yet the consequences so threatening to all of Europe.

As I sit here thousands of miles away, I want to do something. Democracy allows me to share my opinion, and this blog works as a vehicle to do so. And you see—it’s because the United States celebrates our democracy I have the right of freedom of speech and share my opinion. I’ve seen many of the war protesters in Russia being hauled away to who knows where and what atrocities will happen to them.

Yes, democracy’s cost comes at a high price, but once again, we, who enjoy that luxury, have to protect the democracy of Ukraine. In protecting it there, thousands of miles away, we protect it here for me and you.

You might laugh at my question, “Will Russia invade the United States?” Don’t laugh, because it already has. Russian bots have filled Social Media with their propaganda and many Americans have fallen into their traps. Today, we have American sympathizers with Russia and Putin. Some politicians and newscasters lauded Putin as a genius, so the Russian invasion has happened to the USA—maybe not with boots on the ground, but with ideas and a division that Putin sees as a crack in our unity.

So, war is here. What now? What can I do? I offer two possibilities:

Silent Minute in World War I

During World War I, the Brits stopped and prayed for one minute each night at 9:00 PM, calling it the “Silent Minute.” They continued in World War II with an added dimension.

On November 10, 1940 at 9:00, all of Briton was gathered around their radios to find out how the war was going. The announcer explained that Big Ben chiming out 9:00 would be broadcast before the news from then on. The people of Briton were asked to take that one minute during the chiming to pray for, or visualize, peace. As everyone knew they were in for another night of bombing, there probably weren’t many who didn’t participate.

Join me nightly for a moment of silence and prayer at 9:00 PM to pray for Ukraine and their protection.

Pope Francis’ Appeal

See Pope Francis’ message appeal below to use March 2, 2022, Ash Wednesday, as a day of fasting for peace. Then I would encourage you to use this Lenten season ahead to continue to lift the Ukrainian people in prayer.

Pope Francis' Appeal - War in Ukraine


War is here again—so what now? Even though I live many miles away, I choose to be a part of the solution, not the problem. I support Ukraine, our president, NATO, and our leaders in this stressful time. There are a variety of ways to support the USA’s stance: Red Cross donations, prayers, signs of solidarity behind our leaders, etc.

What are you feeling? How are you making a difference?

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with my interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: or at Amazon.

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Meme

~Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: